I fear I may have left this post a little late with Autumn upon us and decent tomato supplies starting to wane. I did notice, however, that there were still plenty of inexpensive ripe tomatoes at the market this week, so there is still time.
As all Italian cooks will attest, there is nothing better than homemade tomato sugo. It is so simple to make and it leaves the bought stuff for dead. You also get such an amazing feeling of accomplishment when your pantry is filled with sugo, better still you are reminded of this feeling every time you reach for another jar of sauce.
I picked up 9 kilos of organic roma tomato seconds for $13.00 in Red Hill in January. I was pretty pleased with myself. This yielded about 12 large jars worth of sugo. If you have a good relationship with your greengrocer ask them to get you in some seconds, they don’t need to be picture perfect, just super ripe.
I keep my sugo really simple so I can boost the flavour with chilli or garlic when using the sauce in cooking. All you need is tomatoes, sea salt and some fresh basil.
12 preserve jars
9 kilos over-ripe roma tomatoes
To get started, wash and halve the tomatoes. Place two large pots on the stove, and fill the pots with tomatoes until 3/4 full. You don’t need to add anything other than a little sea salt. Gently bring the tomatoes to the boil and then turn down the heat so they are bubbling away. When they are starting to break down and become nice and soft, they are ready.
If you are planning on making a large quantity of sauce, its best to buy a tomato press to remove the seeds and skin. I bought mine for $50 and it saves so much time. If making smaller quantities you can put the tomatoes through a food processor and then push through a sieve to remove the seeds (they can be quite bitter).
A tomato press spits out the seeds and skin on one side and a beautiful thick sauce on the other. I usually put through the seeds and skin through the machine again, as you get more sauce from it. Waste not want not!
To sterilise the jars wash them in soapy water, dry them well and place them on a tray in a oven heated to 150C for 30 minutes or so until they are hot. Alternatively, you can put the jars though a dishwasher cycle, just make sure they are hot when filling them with sauce.
Before filling the jars, place one fresh basil leaf in each. I’ve found they most effective way to fill the jars is to use a funnel and ladle the sauce through the funnel, to minimise mess.
Once the jars are filled, place them in a pot and fill with cold water (you may have to repeat this process, if you don’t have a pot big enough). The water should be just above the jars. Bring to the boil and simmer until the lids start to pop (20 minutes or so). Turn the heat off and let the jars cool in the water, and you’re done.